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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (21 June) . . Page.. 2391 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

I have a couple of other points to make. I continue to be a great supporter of Neighbourhood Watch as a concept. I honestly do not believe that this government has nurtured Neighbourhood Watch as a significant organisation in relation to suburban safety, particularly issues around the extent to which members of the community can participate in ensuring that their communities, their streets, their houses are safer. I honestly believe that the government has been very negligent in its attention to Neighbourhood Watch and that Neighbourhood Watch has not received the level of support that it deserves. Its sponsorship is down by about 40 per cent. It is being asked to do the same. It struggles all the time. There is a critical mass problem with Neighbourhood Watch that this government has not moved ever to meet. There was a significant report a few years ago which recommended a number of innovations or improvements for Neighbourhood Watch and they have not been taken up by the government. Neighbourhood Watch is not supported, is not resourced and is not in any way applauded or nurtured by this government.

I will conclude my remarks by commenting again on an issue that continues to beset all communities, not just this community, and that is the level of violence against women. It is an issue that we have always been somewhat diffident about discussing. There have not been debates within this Assembly of any real order or note about the continuing high and completely unacceptable level of violence against women, within the family and otherwise. This week there has been a significant national discussion about the level of violence against women members of the indigenous community. That is perhaps a debate that we do not need to go into the details of here, but the emergence of that debate does highlight the extent to which we as a community continue not to acknowledge the level of abuse, sexual abuse and violence, which women and girls continue to suffer.

The advice and evidence that I get from constituents and service providers indicate that there is still an appalling level of violence against women within this community at all levels, sexual abuse and violence against children and women, and violence by, more often than not, partners or family members against women. I do not believe that we as a community are providing the focus on this issue that it demands in terms of the level of unreported sexual assaults and rapes and the level and extent of violence that continues to be perpetrated against women, particularly by family members.

MS TUCKER (8.39) A few important issues do need to be highlighted at this point of the debate. A general comment that always has to be made when we are talking about justice in our society and the way we are responding to offences and crime is that there is a relationship between so much of the crime and substance abuse and addiction to drugs of various kinds. We have had in this Assembly recently an attempt to address anti-social behaviour and crime through imposing harsher punitive measures, increasing police powers and so on. Whilst there has to be a law and order response, it is of great concern to the Greens that we are seeing it swing so far to the punitive side, particularly when you look at the statistics and see whom we are imprisoning and the percentage of those people who are ill because they are addicted to a substance, who have a mental illness or who have an intellectual disability. As Mr Stanhope has pointed out on several occasions, indigenous people are highly represented. Some very important questions are coming out of that for any society, any government and any parliament.

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